College of DuPage releases 781 pages on its reasons for firing Breuder

  • Robert Breuder

    Robert Breuder

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 10/28/2015 5:26 PM

College of DuPage has released 781 pages of documents containing information it says led to last week's firing of President Robert Breuder, just months before he was scheduled to step down as part of a controversial $763,000 severance deal that the college board has since revoked.

In its resolution to fire Breuder, approved in a 4-1 vote, the school listed eight primary findings that led to his ouster. It said Breuder, who has been on paid administrative leave since April, "violated specific policies established by the college, violated board of trustee and legal directives, breached his duties and engaged in conduct damaging to the reputation of the college and the reputation of the college president."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The documents made public this week address those findings, including charges that Breuder failed to preserve electronically stored information on his college-issued iPad despite directives from then-Trustee Kathy Hamilton and the school's attorneys. Hamilton, a longtime critic of Breuder, is now chairwoman of the COD board of trustees.

A June 30 report prepared by DTI, a forensics and digital investigations firm, indicates Breuder's iPad was "factory wiped" on April 28 -- the same day Breuder went on medical leave and just days before the board was scheduled to vote to place him on administrative leave.

"We conclude it is unlikely that any pre-wipe user-created data will be recovered," DTI said in its report.

"DTI powered on the device and confirmed that it had undergone a factory reset," the report also stated.

Hamilton said Wednesday the school chose to release the documents to help COD move forward.

"Disclosing the non-privileged documents that formed the basis for COD's decision to fire Dr. Breuder shows the end of one era and the beginning of another," she said in a statement. "Students, taxpayers, professors and the public deserve to know the basis for our decision. Except for the privileged documents, here it is."

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But Breuder's attorney, Martin Dolan, responded there was "nothing 'wiped' from an iPad pertaining to any business matter with the college and Dr. Breuder. Further, it is our understanding data from any iPad is always backed up on the college server."

"This is again another attempt to sensationalize this current board's story, which weakens by the day," Dolan said in a statement. "What we do know, is this board improperly fired Dr. Breuder, they ignored his contractual rights and ignored due process. This is another example of how they want to destroy this man's reputation."

Dolan said the timing of the release of the documents is suspect and represents an attempt to sway public opinion against Breuder.

The latest salvo comes a week after Breuder filed a federal lawsuit against the board of trustees and four members individually one day after being fired. The suit, which seeks more than $2 million in damages, claims he was wrongfully terminated.

It names four board members, specifically: Hamilton and Trustees Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein.

In addition to the iPad dispute, the board also listed the following reasons for firing Breuder:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Breuder engaged in electioneering and prohibited political activity during the school's 2010 bond referendum and this year's board election.

• Breuder mismanaged college and foundation funds, "including a lack of oversight, lack of accountability and failure to implement proper controls."

• Breuder damaged the reputations of the college and president's office "through improper conduct" with respect to a $20 million grant from the state in spring 2014.

• Breuder failed to secure a confidential recording of a closed board session that was sent anonymously to the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald.

• Breuder failed to respond to a request for information from the college's Freedom of Information Act officer.

• Breuder converted an ADA-compliant family locker room into an executive changing room, inaccessible to people with disabilities, primarily for his own use and the use of a select few others and provided misleading information to the board about the project.

• Breuder conducted himself in a way that led to a "no confidence" vote from the school's faculty in September 2014; "numerous and scathing" press reports about the college; an advisory visit from the Higher Learning Commission that may lead to the sanctions for the college; state and federal criminal investigations; and an audit from the Illinois Inspector General.

Among the wide-ranging array of documents released are those detailing:

• Construction of the executive changing room and the documents he provided the college says misled the board.

• The faculty's exhaustive list of complaints against Breuder in its "no confidence" vote taken on him last fall.

• The push for voter approval of a $168 million campus building program that was approved by voters in a 2010 2010 referendum.

• A Nov. 9, 2010, letter from Breuder to then-board members detailing how he was shorted on pay raises. Former board Chairman Mike McKinnon wanted to say "for media reporting purposes" that Breuder's salary was about $249,000, the letter says. However, Breuder wrote that his raises should have been based on his "total creditable earnings," which included his car allowance, life insurance costs, "professional development" and a housing allowance -- for a total of $315,558. His 3 percent raises were applied to the lower figure for two prior years, and cost him about $4,000. Two months later, the COD board approved a second addendum to Breuder's contract without mentioning specific numbers, but stated his raises should be computed on his "total compensation package."

• A harsh Breuder email in March 2014 to Trustee Dianne McGuire, who would become the only member of the board to vote against firing Breuder. (His other supporters, Trustees Erin Birt and Joseph Wozniak, were absent that day.) It read: "The recent exchange of emails confirms for me that sufficiency of communication is not the real issue as you suggest. Rather, it is that you believe you are not adequately involved in the daily administrative details of the college. Your repeated actions demonstrate an unwillingness to distinguish the difference between policy (the board's purview) and administration (the president's purview). Your unwarranted verbal harassment and unfounded criticism have stripped away the joy of my work and created health issues for me. I ask you to please cease and desist with your continued unwarranted behavior."

Dolan said the documents released this week "show and mean nothing but an utter disregard for Dr. Breuder's contract. Each and every piece of paper released can be explained and there was never a problem until this board began their personal witch-hunt.

"Contracts and procedures are there for a reason. This board has continuously and willfully chosen not to follow the rules. It is shameful, the taxpayers of DuPage County have to tolerate the huge price tag this board is paying, all for personal gain and media attention."

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